By Dr. Haider Mehdi
In the Urdu language, the saying is “Jis Ki Lathi Us Ki Bhains” (Might is Right). Some apologists even call it the use of “Smart Power.”
A School of Thought in the West, mostly subscribed to by neo-cons, die-hard reactionaries and racists, claim “Might is Right” and take a historical-moral stand on the issue. The fact of the matter is that in philosophical and operational terms, the US-Western foreign policy doctrine and political-diplomatic conduct towards Third World nations have always been based on the conceptual notion and consistent application of “Might is Right”. The question that needs to be asked in the context of international politics and a “rules-based” global system of interstate relations is: Is “Might is Right” right? History tells us that this is how the US-West have been behaving historically.
Let us attempt to define and understand the phenomenon at a micro level (at the very base of the belief system). An American associate of over two decades, in spite of this long association, cannot get it straight that putting one’s feet towards someone’s face, or on a desk, with or without shoes, is culturally unacceptable in Pakistani society, and for that matter, in the entire Muslim world. The behavioral diagnosis in this attitude is that cultural context is insignificant and of no importance to this specific individual. The point is that what is true of a single person is, by and large, true of all in US-Western cultures.
Compare this cultural insensitivity to an opposite attitude: Americans strictly eat salad before the main course of dinner – the French eat salad at the end of dinner. However, Americans have no difficulty in understanding this cultural variation – and even appreciate it. They also understand Hindu “Sadhoos” (Hindu ascetics) waving their male genitals to visitors at their temples, and admire Hindu “Pujarans” (female devotees) performing erotic dances as part of their religious rituals in their holy places. But the Westerners fail to comprehend why the majority of Muslim women and men like to dress and behave modestly in their public and private lives. That, in their view, is brought about by the cultural backwardness of Islamic thought.
The overall Western perspective on Muslim culture is that if you don’t think and behave like us (meaning adopt Western values) then you are doomed, and we (the West) will use force (translated as “Might is Right”) to transform your cultures. That is precisely Huntington’s conceptual view on “The Clash of the Civilizations” thesis. This outlook, incidentally, has formed the basic fundamentals of the American-Western foreign policy doctrine and the ongoing attempts to transform indigenous cultures in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and nearly in every Muslim country – purely subjecting them through “Might is Right” and unleashing military force under the pretext of the “war on terrorism”.
The question that needs to be asked is: If the West is not willing to accommodate or understand minor cultural differences, then how are they going to comprehend cultural imperatives that are rooted in history, cognitive development and implicit value systems? In the context of the Pak-Afghan “war on terror,” how is the West going to come to grips with the Pashtuns’ heritage that the killing of anyone is a religiously forbidden act – but when the next of kin or an innocent human being is killed by an enemy, then revenge becomes a sacrosanct duty.
What I am doing here is seeking answers to fundamental human questions when a nation is under a brutal, merciless and destructive foreign occupation – both against human life and its cultural values.
No one in the print media and on television programs in Pakistan seems to be asking the fundamental question: Why is the US-NATO in Afghanistan? Why is the Pakistan army being forced into a war against its own people and its neighbors, the Afghan people? The Pakistani media is so busy in “owning” the “terrorism war” as its own that it has completely lost its bearings on the essential issue.
The new British Prime Minister, David Cameron, in his recent visit to Afghanistan, said the following to Britain’s armed forces at Camp Bastion, “This is not a war of choice, it is a war of necessity. This is not a war of occupation, it is a war of obligation.” The PM insinuated that most of the 9/11 hijackers had been trained in Afghanistan, and the British military mission was vital for Britain’s internal security (meaning the streets of London and elsewhere.) The fact of the matter is that there is not a shred of truth in Cameron’s statement. Simon Jenkins, in a recent piece in Guardian News & Media, wrote, “Yet Fox’s belief – like Gordon Brown’s – that British soldiers are fighting ‘to keep the streets of Britain safe’ is equally absurd. There has never been a shred of evidence that the Taliban wants to conquer Britain, any more than did Saddam Hussain.” Also, there is no question of “nation building” in present-day Afghanistan. Moreover, 77 percent of Britons now reject the Afghan war. Yet the irony is that George W. Bush’s era of lies continues to resonate in the New Britain of David Cameron and in the “We Can Change” America of Barrack Obama.
The simple truth is that the US-Britain-NATO charade of internal security concerns, nation building, democratic development, and the war of obligation are fabricated notions under the pretext of “war on terror” and are aimed at the extension and expansion of Western capitalism, military-political hegemony and future control of natural resources in Afghanistan (estimated at 1 trillion dollars) and beyond, implemented by a rigid demagogic foreign policy doctrine rooted in the precise Western belief that “Might is Right”. It is the love of control and power over weak nations (read it as collective psychological-mental-illness), greed and a merciless egocentric attitude in the West that nothing matters as long as their objectives are met. Human life is meaningless (put a label on it – Taliban, etc. – and they are no longer human beings), cultural contexts are irrelevant (because they interfere with the realization of their objectives) and the use of force (Might is Right) is legitimate (because they have it and others don’t).
Western capitalism cannot resolve the colossal problems of the Third World masses. Former President Clinton’s testimony before the Senate last March is an admission as well as a warning that his agriculture policies caused an incredible amount of job losses, insurmountable damage to agricultural infrastructure, massive migration of rural population to urban centers, alarming destruction of community life and irreparable setbacks to socio-economic justice and the wellbeing of the people in Latin America (in other words, American capitalism has failed repeatedly). But that is how capitalism works. Consider the present calamitous behavior of BP in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill debacle.
People have short memories: “As horrible as the Gulf spill has been, what happened in the Amazon was worse,” wrote Bob Herbert in a recent article in the New York Times News Service: “for many years indigenous people from a formerly pristine region of the Amazon rainforest in Ecuador have been trying to get relief from an American company, Texaco (which later merged with Chevron), for what has been described as the largest oil-related environmental catastrophe ever…Much of that area has been horribly polluted. The lives and culture of the local inhabitants, who fished in the intricate waterways and cultivated the land as their ancestors had done for generations, have been upended in ways that have led to widespread misery.”
The human misery unleashed by the US-Britain-NATO military on Iraqis and Afghanis and its drone attacks on Pakistan’s territory is no less calamitous and catastrophic than what US-Western capitalism has inherently been doing in other parts of the world – they did not stop there and they will not stop here now.
But the US-Britain-NATO is doomed to fail in Afghanistan. Here is a cultural imperative: Might is not Right! The killing of innocents must be revenged as a sacrosanct duty!
American-Britain-NATO can go on fighting for a hundred years… and this war will not end!
That is what history has taught us… Hasn’t it?
“Jis Ki Lathi Us Ki Bhains” is an outdated concept – incompatible with the present-day human civilization!!
I wish someone would tell this to the West’s reactionary capitalist demagogues!
The writer is an academic, political analyst and conflict resolution expert